President of Argentina in Moscow: Re-Routing Bilateral Relations

The visit of the Argentine President Mauricio Macri to Russia can be considered as a good event from all points of view.

The relations between Argentina and Russia had their twists and turns, as it always happens in the international arena. But today the diplomatic relations already amount 132 years, a very significant figure for a country like Argentina that has barely 200 years as an independent nation. In the 21st century thanks to the political harmony between former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and President Vladimir Putin the ties between two countries became closer. The result of this was the Statement on Argentine-Russian Integral Strategic Association, signed by two presidents in April 2015, as well as a series of very important economic, military and cultural cooperation agreements. For ordinary Argentinians the Russia's vision of the world was incorporated into their daily life thanks to the RT news channel broadcast on the state-run digital television.

With the arrival of Mauricio Macri to the Casa Rosada in December 2015 the neoliberal conservative turn happened, and he resented these advances. In foreign policy, the new government aligned itself with the United States and froze the openings towards Russia and China that Argentina carried out with the previous administration in cooperation with the allied countries of Mercosur and Unasur. Despite this alignment and many concessions that Buenos Aires made to Washington during last two years, Argentina did not benefit from the promised investments in its economy. The fact that Macri has explicitly bet on the triumph of Hillary Clinton and not Donald Trump, may have also influenced this.

For this reason most analysts and media in Argentina have described Macri's first visit to Russia as a sign that he reviewed his previous decisions and decided to resume the good relationship built by Kirchner. However, to avoid that this visit to Moscow could sow any doubt about his loyalty to Washington, the Argentine president made a strong comment on the situation in Venezuela using the same terms that usually appear in the statements of the Department of State.

Beyond the fundamental objective to limit mistrust and tensions - which apparently has been fulfilled - this visit has opened the possibility for several projects. The most celebrated by Argentina is the memorandum of understanding for the exploration and exploitation of uranium by the Uranium One Group company (subsidiary of Rosatom) with a possible investment of 250 million dollars.

According to the Russian Federal Customs Service, the commercial exchange in 2016 was 847 million dollars: 163 million corresponded to Russian exports and 684 to Argentine exports. In 2017 the data could be similar. Russia exports mineral fertilizers, chemical and metal industry productions, and imports food and agricultural products. During Macri’s visit possible increase of Argentine food export into Russia was discussed. It is an issue with good prospects given the blockade that the European Union imposed against Russia as punishment for the incorporation of Crimea into the Federation.

Certainly there was also a sincere gratitude from Argentina for the Russian collaboration in search for the ARA San Juan submarine, disappeared in the Argentine waters, and there were also obvious comments about football World Cup, when Russia will be at the center of world attention.

The visit can be considered as a good starting point to re-route bilateral relations. Unfortunately, the Cold War logic applied by the current Argentine government is still weighing negatively, because if a country is aligned with Washington, it cannot have dealings with Moscow. However, future prospects are hopeful, given the complementarity of both economies, Argentina's need for investment and technology and Russia's need for food.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.